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August 1, 2014

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Human Nature take on the Apollo: ‘I think we earned their respect’

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Courtesy of Human Nature

Venetian headliners Human Nature arrive at the 80th Apollo Spring Gala at Apollo Theater in New York on Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

Updated Monday, June 16, 2014 | 10:47 a.m.

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Gladys Knight is flanked by Venetian headliners Human Nature at the Apollo Theater's 80th anniversary celebration at Apollo Theater in New York on Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

The Apollo Theater held its 80th anniversary party this week, and here is where we make the requisite joke about four fellows from Australia feeling right at home in Harlem.

Human Nature, the spinning, sweet-voiced Aussie quartet that performs Motown hits at the Venetian, was in the all-star lineup for the 80th Apollo Spring Gala fundraising production of the storied music hall in New York City on Tuesday.

The host was Wayne Brady, host of “Let's Make a Deal” on CBS and a recurring headliner at the Mirage who was once in residency at the Venetian. Gladys Knight, Joss Stone, Doug E. Fresh, Natalie Cole and The Isley Brothers ably filled out the artists recruited to mark the event. The show raised $2.3 million, the most in the nine-year history of the charity performance.

“It felt like an amazing embrace for us as a group for what we have contributed in our own way to the legacy of the Motown music,” Human Nature’s Andrew Tierney said in a text massage. “We were literally dancing in the footsteps of legends, as that stage has hosted every significant Motown and soul performer in history. It inspired us to return in the near future to the Apollo in our own right and do a full show there.”

Human Nature does plan a tour of the East Coast in August, nine dates in all, with a half-dozen at the Borgata in Atlantic City. The group’s credibility to perform Motown hits on the Strip or at the Apollo is boosted greatly by the support of Smokey Robinson, who has been the presenter of Human Nature since the act arrived in Las Vegas five years ago.

"Smokey Robinson told me about Human Nature and said they sing Motown like no other young singers he's ever heard today. And he is right,” Apollo Theater Spring Gala producer Ron Weisner said in a statement.

But it was not a certainty the Aussie quartet, whom I’ve long said look like the “Jersey Boys” but sound like The Temptations, would be immediately appreciated in Harlem.

“To be honest, I could see some skeptical faces in the audience when we took the stage,” Tierney said, “But after a few bars of ‘Ooo Baby Baby,’ I think we earned their respect, which is nice.”

Also in the 15-minute set: “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Want You Back,” all crowd favorites in the show at the Venetian.

The guys spent some time backstage with Knight and hope to perform or record with the R&B legend. Brady talked of an idea he had to perform a Christmas show with the guys.

“We actually used the image of the Apollo marquee for one of our album covers a few years back and never dreamed we might actually perform there one day,” Tierney said. “But now we have.”

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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